10 Israeli Robotics Startups from the Startup Nation
While many of our readers call the United States of ’Murica home, we think it’s important to expose you to emerging technologies from around the world. There’s one little corner that burns especially bright with innovation, despite being inhabited by less than nine million people. Israel is the Startup Nation for good reason, and we’ve devoted a fair amount of digital ink to covering its numerous startups, from AR/VR to trash tech to alt kosher foods. The biggest sector by far is in artificial intelligence, where the last official count claimed Israel had 1,150 AI startups. One emerging technology that is increasingly reliant on AI is robotics, as machine learning helps robots pick fruit and make pizza. But Israel isn’t exactly flush with robotics companies, so we were pretty excited to come across this market map of Israeli robotics startups.
This particular one comes courtesy of a venture capital firm called i3 Equity Partners in a blog post, which noted that robotics isn’t a very dominant field in Israel, though entrepreneurs are leveraging the country’s deep expertise on the software side of things. Based on i3 Equity’s research, the most active robotics industries are industrial, healthcare, agriculture, and consumer applications. In this article, we decided to focus on the 10 Israeli robotics startups working on industrial applications, which include warehouse robots, drones, and manufacturing solutions.
Biggest Israeli Robotics Startups
We are already familiar with the two most well-funded of the bunch – CommonSense Robotics and Airobotics. Let’s briefly check in on both to see what’s happened since our last coverage.
We first covered CommonSense Robotics back in August 2018 in an article about retail warehouse robots. The company, founded in 2015, was planning to deploy an army of robots in what it called micro-fulfillment centers for online grocery delivery in dense urban areas. Since then, it has changed its name, moved its HQ from Tel Aviv to New Yawk City, and raised a ton more cash from a $110 million Series B in February. That brings total funding to $136 million. Now called Fabric, the name change reflects the company’s emphasis on its service model as the “fabric of the new world of e-commerce.” Last year, it broke ground on an 18,000-square-foot underground
bunker location where it will fulfill online orders for retailers in one hour. The move to the Big Apple reflects the company’s strategy to move quickly into the U.S. market.
Meanwhile, Airobotics is pursuing a very different business model with industrial drones. It has also picked up a significant amount of money since we last covered this startup in 2016, with total funding at $108.1 million. It has built an autonomous drone platform that looks something like this:
The company is going after a number of applications, from inspection and monitoring to security. Its drone, Trion, packs quite a bit into a package that weighs less than three pounds, including LiDAR capabilities – that means it can track stuff even at night – not to mention a high-resolution HD camera with powerful continuous optical zoom and continuous 360-degree panoramic capabilities. And Airobotics is the first drone company authorized to operate beyond visual line of sight in Australia.
Not surprisingly, several other Israeli robotics startups also compete in these two categories.
Warehouse Robotics for Logistics
Two companies on the list offer robotic warehouse solutions in what is becoming an increasingly crowded market, with major retailers like Walmart deploying their own robots for online delivery services.
Founded in 2014, BionicHive is reportedly bootstrapped, picking up about $100,000 along the way. It doesn’t build the warehouse infrastructure from the ground up like Fabric. Instead, it retrofits its solution, SqUID, to existing infrastructure. Its autonomous robots move in three dimensions along tracks that are attached to warehouse racks, like a train moving along tracks that can go straight up a 90-degree vertical. Its AI algorithms orchestrate the entire logistics dance in real time.
Founded in 2014, Caja Systems is another Israeli robotics startup offering a warehouse logistics solution that can adapt to existing infrastructure. Its system consists of two robots – a lift robot for storage optimization and replenishment, along with a cart robot for picking and fast transportation of boxes.
The system is a cloud-based platform that employs AI to keep the whole operation running as smooth as a chicken. The company claims its solution can increase storage capacity by 50% while also boosting throughput by 40%.
Drone Robot for Industrial Security and Inspection
Founded in 2018, Indoor Robotics is in the startup version of self-quarantine known as stealth mode. So, there’s not much information on them aside from a couple of online blurbs, including one from Pitango Venture Capital, an Israeli firm that invested in an undisclosed Seed round last year. As the name implies, Indoor Robotics is developing an indoor drone, Tando, for security and inspection missions like Airobotics. It apparently roosts on the ceiling like a bat waiting to strike:
A profile on Start-up Nation Central also reveals that Tando autonomously attaches itself to a ceiling station where it monitors its surroundings using a camera that is “equipped with motion detectors as well as heat and ultrasonic sensors that enable it to detect anomalies in the indoor space and to get real-time decisions from its collected forensics. Using its sensors, the drone can create a visual map of the structure and pinpoint its position with accuracy down to 5 centimeters.” That’s about two inches for those who skipped math class in high school.
Israeli Robotics Startups in Manufacturing
Several Israeli robotics startups offer different solutions in manufacturing.
The use of machine vision to detect defects in manufactured parts has actually been around for decades. The term has morphed into computer vision, which is more often associated with AI and machine learning technologies. We covered this a bit more in an article about a pure-play German stock. We’ve also come across other types of robots doing surface inspections. All of that brings us to an Israeli robotics startup founded in 2014 called Kitov that has raised $10 million for its robotics system that uses computer vision, deep learning, and big data to inspect manufactured parts.
The system includes a robotic arm and a high-accuracy rotating table that imitates the way humans look for defects by collecting multiple images of the inspected product from various angles, positions and illumination conditions.
Founded in 2013, Frisimos Technologies is one of those Israeli robotics startups that offers probably one of the less sexy solutions, which means it will probably end up making the most money of any of them. The company uses robotics and laser-based machines to replace humans in cable assembly for various manufacturing processes. It offers a range of different machines that can automatically solder or sort wires. They all kind of look like this:
All the robots use machine vision for accuracy in their respective jobs. A couple of years ago, Frisimos partnered with a German industrial manufacturer that specializes in the field of cable and plastics processing. Together, they claim their combined platforms reduce manufacturing costs by an average of 80%.
RAS Robotics is even more mysterious than Indoor Robotics. Founded in 2017, RAS Robotics “invents, develops, and sells robotic systems designed to provide large facilities with cost-effective end-to-end solutions for performing repetitive tasks and gaining access to crucial information,” according to its profile on Start-up Nation Central. However, the company’s website appears to have been hacked by a Chinese gambling consortium. Here’s the home page:
If anybody has further news about this startup, let us know.
Robots and More Robots
The last two startups on the list seem to have, shall we say, a wide-ranging scope.
Founded more than 20 years ago in 1999, Polygon Technologies appears to be in a polyamorous relationship with robotics, offering solutions in multiple industries including the military and defense, industrial, and medical sectors. It claims partnerships with a number of companies, including Caja and its robots for warehouse logistics. One of its products is something called the Poly Platform (and apparently has nothing to do with polyamorous kink):
Founded in 2011, RoboTiCan also offers a vast range of robots and drones. The former are mainly marketed toward service industries, manufacturing, and research. The latter appear to target military and security applications. There’s the one-armed ARMadillo that appears to be the startup’s flagship robot. It’s armed with a range of sensors, cameras, and other tech that can be customized for different use cases. In particular, the ARMadillo (or some version of it) could support what the company calls smart manufacturing:
On the military side, RoboTiCan offers both unmanned ground and aerial vehicles, not to mention a robotics system for target practice.
The Israeli robotics startup scene itself is something of a moving target. After Fabric and Airobotics, the list is pretty thin. Kitov and its inspection robot appear to have some momentum. The last two on the list, Polygon and RoboTiCan, have both been around for a while, but we couldn’t find a ton of news on either one of them in terms of customers, deployments, etc. Companies developing warehouse robot systems face a stiffening field of competition. Frisimos seems like a steady if not-very-sexy startup. RAS Robotics? Who knows. Maybe the company is building robotic card dealers. And Indoor Robotics is keeping it all inside for now. The startup nation certainly knows software. Whether it can lead in robotics hardware is another question entirely – at least based on this list.